Ways of Life

Initiation of Young Women

In Nisg̱a’a society, the passage from childhood to adulthood was traditionally marked with initiation rituals for girls and boys. For girls, their initiation into womanhood took place when they began to menstruate.

When a girl had her first menstruation, her grandmother or aunt would take her into seclusion and stay with her for approximately one week. In modern times, this might be someone’s home, but in the past it was a secluded hut or similar shelter away from the main village or longhouse.

While in seclusion, the grandmother or the aunt taught her the skills needed to be a mother and a wife. She was taught how to cook, how to preserve food, how to make clothing, what to expect in marriage, and how to raise a family. She was not allowed to eat any seafood or wild game of any kind, and she was not allowed to be out in public.

Afterwards, she would be brought home to her own parents, and she would be expected to live the way she had been taught. She would understand that she was now a woman, and she had put aside childish habits.

Initiation of Women graphic